Of all the next-generation titles shown in playable form it’s undoubtedly Crytek’s Ryse: Son of Rome that has received the harshest critique. It’s true that the original playable demo was possibly a poor choice to show to the global audience, but many suggested it was a QTE heavy affair where in reality it was closer to God of War: a gap in Microsoft Studios’ software library which they are undoubtedly hoping to fill with Ryse: Son of Rome.
In play the latest build of Ryse: Son of Rome feels exactly the same as its predecessor, only now the on-screen prompts have gone. This convinced many that it’s no longer a vague button masher, proving how unfounded their fears had been in the first place. Ryse: Son of Rome was and is a brutal scrolling beat-‘em-up videogame akin to DmC: Devil May Cry or God of War, trading in style and grace for raw brutality. If Zoo Tycoon is the Xbox One’s effort to reach young Blue Peter families, Ryse: Son of Rome is designed for nothing less than 300.
The combat system feels fairly light at present, though given the scope for character development Electronic Theatre is happy to believe that this slice of gameplay is not truly representative of the full catalogue. The player has strikes that open for various combos, power blows and counter attacks; all of which are excessively violent. You can genuinely see the pained look on an enemy’s face as you crack your heavy steel shield upwards against their chin or the mistiming of their steps as you turn from a fallen foe and strike them off-balance. Many may question the visual design of Ryse: Son of Rome as it opts for photo realism over stylised fantasy, but none could question the quality of its animation: of all the next-generation titles witnessed by Electronic Theatre, Ryse: Son of Rome features the slickest, most believable character animation yet.
During the preview demonstration Electronic Theatre was given the opportunity to play Ryse: Son of Rome’s co-operative gameplay mode for the first time. Essentially an arena based survival mode, a randomly generated environment will appear with a singular task set: kill all enemies is an obvious introduction, but later objectives such as reach a destination or activate a wrecking machine come into play. A series of waves will take place on each map and once completed a new round will begin with a new arrangement. It’s a simple system that does well to encourage co-operation – the most advantageous manoeuvre easily being the dual finishing move – and proves to be even more interesting when you incorporate Smartglass into the action.
Using the free Smartglass app for features that will be available alongside Ryse: Son of Rome at launch, players can actually design their own co-operatuve challenges on the go. The randomly generated levels are designed via a tile system and the player can select which tile sets are available and in what order they may be used. They can also set preferences for the types of enemy that the players will fight and many other special conditions, as well as potential rewards. Each creation can immediately be sent to friends and will have its own unique leaderboard, encouraging competition between friends all the while they are working together to complete each challenge.
Ryse: Son of Rome is still a flawed experience at present with a camera that has failed to take on advice from any modern scrolling beat-‘em-up and instead drawing parallels with the frustrating Ninja Gaiden 2; a five year old videogame that has since been surpassed significantly in this area. Furthermore the context sensitive attacks often result in the player being landed in the way of unblockable attacks through no fault of their own or even entering into the wrong animation altogether, which is disappointing for a videogame that originally revealed itself to be founded on such moments. Of course, with more than two months still on the development schedule, these and other issues are more than likely to be rectified prior to release, and if that’s the case Ryse: Son of Rome will make a bloody, visceral challenge for the crown of next-generation action videogames.